Friday, 12 November 2021

Planting out the Butterfly Polyculture - Week 23 - ESC Project - The Polyculture Project


In an earlier post I introduced the 'Butterfly Paradise' polyculture, a perennial infrastructure polyculture with the primary function to attract butterflies. The plants we selected were; Buddleia davidii - Butterfly bush, Phlomis russeliana - Turkish Sage, Lavandula angastafolia - Lavender, Origanum vulgare - Oregano and Echinacea purpurea - Echinacea.

Illustration by Ruxandra Brad

It can be useful to organise polycultures into categories, as this stops us from becoming overwhelmed when designing as there are such a wide range of options at our disposal when working with plants.  We categorise the 'Butterfly Paradise' polyculture as an amenity planting polyculture, as the main purpose is to make a landscape more attractive rather than to produce a crop. Many examples of these kind of planting schemes can be found in formal gardens or parks. With a little imagination, amenity planting has great potential to support biodiversity or yield some produce while at the same time maintaining its main function to look good. 

Polyculture design - Amenity planting 

We met with the local mayor to confirm the exact spot for the bed. There will be an information table mounted on the pathway in the image so that local visitors can read about what they are seeing and the plant selection.

Our polyculture is a circular design, and so to work out the bed size, we calculated that the mature growth of the plants in the polyculture would need the space of approximately 2.5m diameter. When we found our central spot, we sited a peg there with some string attached and measured out to 1.25m. Holding the string, we walked around marking out the circle and continually checked our positioning during the initial dig to make sure we were on course.

The ESC volunteers were planting out the polyculture into a grassed area in the central community park, so the ground was somewhat compacted. As we've found with compacted soils, it's worth breaking the compaction and relieving any hardpan that may be present before adding mulch. We used a broadfork for this purpose and can highly recommend the ones made by Krasimir from Gligans Handmade Broadforks. Krasimir makes these tools and they are great quality and super useful. Check out his your video of his tools in action and check their Facebook page here. 


Once the area had been forked over, the grass was flipped upside down and reapplied to the area rather than removed, to recycle the existing organic matter. The new plants were added along with a bucketful of well rotted manure. The mature growth of the plants was again taken into consideration before putting the new plant into position. Once planted, 15L of water was applied to each plant with slight earthworks made on the slope side to create a basin ensuring that the water infiltrates the specific area and reaches the plant roots, rather than running off.

Markus watering a newly planted Lavender plant. Notice the mini berm built on the slope side that helps to prevent run off. Once covered with woodchip (below) this feature isn't visible. 


The Mayor added some coloured woodchip that she had around the main plants

Thinking about this polyculture in term of layers,  the canopy layer is represented by the Buddleia which is the tallest plant in the centre. The other plants make up the shrub layer, so we decided to add two more layers-  ground layer plants from the Delosperma genus and also Allium moly - Golden Garlic for the bulb layer.

Whilst creating this bed we noticed that the ground was really wet and soggy in one place, causing us to wonder whether we had inadvertently struck a pipe while digging. Investigation led us to discover that the local tap actually had an underground pipe for drainage, which emerged just on the north easterly side of our bed. We realised that this was actually an incredible resource that would provide extra irrigation in the summer months, but Markus went a step further and created an underground gully that actually channelled the water more directly to the bed. We added some pebbles to keep it functional and then replaced the turf so it wouldn't be visible.

A delightful find!
 
As this is an amenity planting located near an area where young children play, we wanted to prevent little feet from disturbing the new plants while at the same time enhancing how the bed looked visually. We decided to create a woven decorative fence made from Hazel sticks and Bamboo canes harvested from the gardens. We're lucky enough to have a talented crafter, Ruxandra, in our midst, who led the way with this project. Markus had made wooden pegs for support and we used 12 to support the main poles. The whole team spent a fair bit of time harvesting, preparing and painting the canes.


The longest Bamboo sticks around 2m in length were selected and each one placed inside a designated peg before being woven around the following 2 or 2 pegs. As the fence built up, it was important to remember which pole was in which position and at what level, as it can be easily confused.

Ruxandra working her magic!


The finished bed, reminiscent of a mandala or perhaps a pepperoni pizza!

To read the ESC crew's personal blog see here.

If you would like to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes we'll be running our third Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course that starts on May 4th, 2022. 

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code SUB2022 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know the very first of its kind, and if you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!


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